Chelsea 1-1 PSG: Blues through on penalties after better second half

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Chelsea struggled mightily in the first 45 minutes, but slowly improved throughout the second half, as they drew 1-1 with Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain.

Of course, we needed a winner, so penalty kicks saw Chelsea take the victory, with Thibaut Courtois triumphantly hit the winner with power.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic put PSG ahead in the first half with a goal off a rebound, but a more free-flowing second half brought Chelsea back into the match allowing Cesc Fabregas to find Victor Moses past the hour mark for the equalizer.

Early on, the clogged PSG midfield made things hard for Chelsea to progress through the middle, and the Frenchmen held much of the possession throughout the first 20 minutes. Chelsea’s rigid shape held firm early on, but finally a giveaway allowed the French champions in. Jean-Kevin Augustin snatched the ball off John Obi Mikel at the top of the box, and his low shot rebounded off the post right to the feet of a wide-open Zlatan Ibrahimovic who slammed the ball home and celebrated accordingly.

The goal changed the game and galvanized PSG in front of a pro-Chelsea crowd. Diego Costa hit the post on a ball from Hazard, but past the half-hour mark it was all PSG as they poured forward. Lucas Moura again proved dangerous with a scintillating run through the middle and his shot forced a stunning save from Asmir Begovic, starting a five-minutes stretch that produced a handful of solid chances for the French giants.

Both Marco Verratti and Augustin went to ground in the box but were waved on by the referee. Seconds later Verratti nearly chipped Begovic after being played clear through on goal, but it fell just wide. On 40 minutes, Augustin put the moves on Branislav Ivanovic, but his shot went at Begovic from point-blank range.

Chelsea somehow made it to halftime without conceding another, and the second half started as the first ended, with PSG dominating possession of the ball. Chelsea were gifted a golden opportunity to tie things up as a mistake at the back fell right at the feet of Cesc Fabregas all alone, but the former Arsenal man took ages to fire off a shot, and by the time he did, substitute Adrien Rabiot had made his way in for the block.

Fabregas amended for his mistake, though, as another Chelsea attack ended with an equalizer. The Spaniard flicked the ball brilliantly across the box to Victor Moses waiting at the far post, and his side-foot finish easily beat Salvatore Sirigu who had just come on.

Chelsea then made wholesale changes, getting Radamel Falcao into the action for the first time in a Chelsea uniform. He had an opportunity on the 76th minute, but his diving effort was blocked. Things slowed down in the final 10 minutes, and the two teams finished level as the changes forced each side to hit the reset button.

In the penalty shootout, each team missed just once in the first five, with Juan Cuadrado and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck each seeing their shots saved. In the seventh round, Thiago Silva’s penalty was stopped by Courtois, and the Chelsea goalkeeper smacked a howitzer past Sirigu for the win.


Chelsea: Begovic (Courtois 46′); Ivanovic, Cahill (Zouma 46′), Terry, Azpilicueta; Fabregas (Remy 70′), Hazard (Cuadrado 74′), Mikel (Ramires 46′), Moses (Oscar 70′), Matic (Willian 70′); Costa (Falcao 70′).

PSG: Trapp (Sirigu 68′); Maxwell (Digne 79′), Luiz (Silva 46′), Van der Weil (Sabaly 79′), Aurier (Marquinhos 46′); Stambouli (Motta 46′), Matuidi (Nkunku 79′), Verratti (Rabiot 46′), Moura (Bahebeck 79′); Augustin (Cavani 65′), Ibrahimovic (Ongenda 79′).

Atletico Madrid temporarily cuts player salaries by 70 percent

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Atletico Madrid says it has reached an agreement with its players and coaching staff to reduce their salaries by 70 percent while competitions are stopped during the coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: FIFA extends men’s age limit for Tokyo Olympics due to virus ]

Atletico announced the agreement on Thursday and said it is temporarily suspending the jobs of club employees.

Atletico had previously said it would need to take such a drastic step but had yet to reveal the details.

A job suspension under Spanish law allows a company to greatly reduce its labor costs by having workers stay at home while guaranteeing they will go back to their positions when conditions improve.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Spanish club added that some of the money saved by the players’ salary cuts will be given to its other employees who will be furloughed.

Barcelona recently announced it had come to a similar agreement with its players.

Both clubs said that such cost-saving measures were necessary to ensure their financial stability due to the loss in revenue during the stoppage of competitions.

CONCACAF postpones Nations League finals, Gold Cup qualification

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CONCACAF announced on Friday that the 2019-20 Nations League finals and the opening rounds of 2021 Gold Cup qualification have been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Nations League finals — featuring the U.S. men’s national team, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras — were previously scheduled to take place in Houston and Dallas in early June. CONCACAF says the semifinals and final will be rescheduled for a later date.

The seconds round of Gold Cup qualifying was previously scheduled to be made up in June — following their postponement in March, with four two-leg ties featuring largely Caribbean and Central American nations. Those, too, will be rescheduled for a later date.

Given the ongoing public health situation, and following consultation with FIFA regarding the international football calendar, we have made the decision to suspend the CONCACAF Nations League finals, which was scheduled for June 4-7, 2020 in the Houston and Dallas areas.

The event, which includes the Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and USA men’s national teams, will be rescheduled to take place at a later date in venues to be determined. This will be confirmed following further discussions with FIFA regarding the remaining international windows in the football calendar, and will obviously be subject to public health authorities deeming it safe for professional sports events to resume.

FIFA extends men’s age limit for Tokyo Olympics due to virus

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GENEVA — FIFA has extended the age limit for the men’s soccer tournament at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The amended Olympic rule on Friday retains the “players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997” standard for the Tokyo Games following a one-year postponement agreed last week by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese authorities.

It means players eligible for the intended under-23 tournament in 2020 can still play in Japan at age 24 next year. Men’s soccer kicks off ahead of the July 23, 2021 opening ceremony in Tokyo.

FIFA also postponed two women’s age-group World Cups due this year in Central America and India, and confirmed no international games for men and women will be played in the early June dates protected for national team call-ups.

Soccer’s world body said “health must always be the first priority and the main criteria in any decision-making process, especially in these challenging times.”

The Olympic decision was made by a FIFA panel of soccer officials worldwide, created to address the soccer shutdown during the health crisis.

The 16 men’s teams at the Tokyo Olympics next year can also select three over-age players in their rosters. A stellar lineup includes Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Spain.

Two women’s World Cup tournaments — the Under-20s hosted by Panama and Costa Rica in August and September, and the Under-17s in India in November — are postponed. No new dates were announced.

[ MORE: Report: Serie A could resume training May 2, games late in month ]

Until the COVID-19 outbreak, national team games scheduled in June included the 2020 European Championship, World Cup qualifying games in South America and Asia, and qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

After Euro 2020 was postponed for one year, UEFA hoped to schedule playoff games in June to confirm the last four places in a 24-nation lineup. Those playoffs were postponed indefinitely this week.

World Cup qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar now face uncertain scheduling in a congested calendar in Europe, South America and Asia.

FIFA said on Friday it would “organize bilateral discussions” with continental governing bodies “to finalize a revised match schedule pending health and safety developments.”

FIFA plans to direct hundreds of millions of dollars from its cash reserves to support a global emergency fund, and has agreed to appoint one official from each of the six soccer continents to coordinate the work.

Arsenal want season completed ‘to maintain integrity’ of PL

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Arsenal remain in support of finishing the 2019-20 season in order to “to maintain the integrity” of the competition, despite Friday’s unanimous vote that the Premier League cannot resume at the start of May as previously hoped due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Gunners, who currently sit ninth in the PL table with 10 games left to play (one more than the majority of clubs around them), were five points back of fifth-place Manchester United for qualification to next season’s UEFA Champions League thanks to Manchester City’s two-year European ban.

In a statement released on Friday, Arsenal reiterated their stance that the current season should be played to completion rather than called to completion at things stand or abandoned altogether.

We are in full support of the objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches from the 2019-20 season to be played, in order to maintain the integrity of each competition.

We also fully agree with the principle that any return to action will only be with the full backing of government and when medical guidance allows.

The restart date is under constant review as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we continue to work together with all stakeholders through this very challenging time